TRAVERSE CITY — Eric Lemmon has 10 gold medals from the Michigan Special Olympics and is hoping to add more to his collection.
But he has hurdles to jump through. Quite a few — but Lemmon has already cleared many in his 26 years.
Lemmon was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, mild Tourette’s Syndrome and a speech impediment. His family opted to put him in foster care when he was 12, as they thought he’d be better off with a family that could properly care for his special needs.
Lemmon has painful memories associated with foster care. A meeting with his biological mother didn’t go well, either. But he has always tried to live his happiest life, he said.
“I’ve always tried to make the best out of life,” he said.
For Lemmon, that means sports — through Michigan’s Special Olympics program where he plays soccer, basketball and softball.
To support himself and his athletics, Lemmon worked as a janitor at Grand Traverse Mall, cleaning floors from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
He’s extremely proud of his ability to support himself and his hobby.
But something went wrong this year when he and his friend Kelly Everson were training for the 2018 Special Olympics. Lemmon collapsed mid-practice.
“Kelly noticed I was running out of breath really quickly,” Lemmon recalled. “I tried to get up, but I felt light-headed.”
Lemmon didn’t go to the doctor immediately after he collapsed, but he still wasn’t feeling well a few days later at work.
“I rode my bike from the mall to the hospital,” he said. “They ordered a CT scan of my chest.”
The doctor said, “We’re going to have to admit you,’” Lemmon said, as he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung and testicular cancer.